Permanent Collection - Boston Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum’s encyclopedic collection of approximately 450,000 objects includes some of the most rare and important artistic treasures in the world. Each year, the MFA offers a wide range of special exhibitions featuring both the Museum’s holdings as well as works of art on loan from around the world. Currently, more than 327,000 works of the Museum’s collection are accessible online ( with more added every day. The MFA is made up of eight curatorial areas:

Art of the Americas—Since the Museum’s founding in 1870, it has been committed to collecting American art, and its holdings rank as one of the most important in the nation. The American collection ranges from Ancient American pottery to modernist painting. Highlights include John Singer Sargent’s famed murals; one of the most important collections of paintings by John Singleton Copley; Paul Revere’s Liberty Bowl; and the 1990 gift of 75 works from the William H. Lane Collection, including significant works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur G. Dove, Charles Sheeler, and Stuart Davis.

Art of the Ancient World—This collection possesses works of art from Ancient Egypt, Nubia, the Near East, Cyprus, Greece, Etruria, and Rome, including objects in a variety of media created as early as 6,000 B.C. The Egyptian—particularly from the Old Kingdom—and the Nubian collections are among the largest and most comprehensive in the world, acquired mainly through the MFA’s excavations with Harvard University. The Classical collection ranks among the premier encyclopedic collections in the world, with some 18,000 objects, ranging in date from 6,000 B.C. to A.D. 600, and covering a geographical area from Afghanistan to Britain.

Art of Asia, Oceania and Africa—In 1890, the MFA paved the way for Japanese-American exchange by being the first U.S. art museum to create a Japanese collection and appoint a specialist curator of Japanese art. Today, the MFA’s collection of Asian art—especially the art of Japan—is considered one of the finest in America and one of the most comprehensive in the world. It features everything from woodblock prints by Japanese ukiyo-e masters, to Chinese Buddhist stone sculpture. Over the past decade, the collections of art of Oceania and Africa have also been expanded to include masks, figural sculpture, and objects of daily use and personal adornment.

Art of Europe—Ranging in date from the 7th century to the late 20th century, this collection includes paintings, sculpture and works of decorative art, such as furniture, ceramics, glass, and architectural elements. The European paintings collection holds masterworks from the Renaissance to the 20th century, from Rogier van der Weyden and Rosso Fiorentino, to Picasso and Matisse. The collection of approximately 1,600 paintings has particular depth in 19th-century French works by Barbizon, Impressionist, and post-Impressionist artists. The MFA holds one of the largest groups of paintings by Claude Monet outside of France, and the world’s most extensive collection of paintings and pastels by Jean- François Millet.

Contemporary Art—The Museum’s contemporary collection represents work from the last half-century. The MFA is known for its strength in color field painting, and the collection includes more than 17 canvases by Morris Louis. Significant works by the following artists representing the 1960s-1990s are also included in the collection: Jim Dine, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Julian Schnabel, Kiki Smith, and Andy Warhol.

Musical Instruments—Musical instruments first became a part of the Museum’s collection in 1917. The collection includes instruments from around the world—such as rare, early keyboards, flutes and rattles, and many types of guitars—with exceptional examples dating from ancient civilizations to the late 20th century, from Europe, China, Japan, Africa, and the Middle East.

Prints, Drawings and Photographs—These collections encompass an extraordinary range of artists, time periods and media—including prints, drawings, watercolors, photographs and posters, of American and European origin, dating from the mid-15th century to the present. Well-represented artists included Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya, Picasso, Munch, Kollwitz, and the German Expressionists, as well as the French Impressionists Pissarro, Cassatt and Degas. The Museum possesses one of the earliest photography collections in the country, initiated in 1924 when Alfred Stieglitz donated 27 of his photographs. In 1967, a purchase program was inaugurated and today the collection spans the history of photography from its beginnings in the 1840s to present day, including works by Clarence White, Frederick Evans, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Weston, and Yousuf Karsh. In 1997, the MFA built and opened the Morse Study Room to further the public’s access to the extraordinary works on paper housed at the Museum

Textile and Fashion Arts—The MFA was the first general art museum to characterize textiles and costumes as “fine art

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